halifax

Roller Derby ... Dogs!

I'm part of an amazing roller derby league in Halifax (not an active skater right now, but it will happen again!) and I've been wanting to photograph some of the skaters with their dogs. I finally organized it this month and we went to a fantastic spot with graffiti walls. I'm thrilled with all of these portraits!

The difference in all of these dogs is so cool to see - big dogs, small dogs, confident dogs, older dogs... they're all so different and special. I know we have so few photos of us with our dogs (we're always just photographing the dogs). So I'm happy to be able to to provide these photos of pups and their people enjoying their time together.

If you've been wanting a few more portraits of you and your dog together, reach out and let's make some plans! My sessions are focused on the dog for the most part, but I'm always happy to include you with the pups for a few special photos.

Don't these pups just melt your heart?

When was the last time you got a photo of yourself and your dog together?

Brain Games for dogs!

Nourishing and exercising our dogs' minds is just as important as nourishing and exercising their bodies. Tiring them out mentally is equally as wonderful for them as tiring them out physically. Just doing one without the other isn't likely to keep them as happy and well-rounded as they deserve.

So how can we exercise their minds? And when should we do it?

The "when" is an easy one... whenever you can! On a rainy day when your pup isn't in the mood for a walk (just gets their business done and zooms back inside), that's a perfect opportunity to work on some brain games. Or instead of watching a half-hour sitcom, practice some mental exercises instead (and then you can both relax on the couch for the rest of the Netflix marathon together). Or if you work from home or are doing some other tasks around the house, you might be able to multitask and keep your dog busy and out from underfoot while you work!

Check out 2 Paws Up dog treats by Madison  here .

Check out 2 Paws Up dog treats by Madison here.

Now for the fun stuff... how to do it!

There are so many different ways you can help keep your dog's mind working and learning. And they can vary in terms of how active you need to be during the game (some of them will allow you to multitask if necessary).

First off, Ruby's favourite thing is to work for treats - specifically hotdog pieces! She has learned so many tricks and commands because of how badly she wants that hotdog. That's how I taught her to be such a patient model when I photograph her, how to run to me and get in the "heel" position, to back away from me, play dead, spin, sit pretty, weave through my legs, etc. So getting some yummy treats (or you can use toys as a reward if that's more motivational for your pup) and working on tricks is a great way to get them thinking and learning. As always, start small/basic with the tricks and build on them once you've repeated them enough to get reliable results. If your pup is getting confused or frustrated and isn't understanding, try disecting the trick a little and see if you can teach a simpler version of it first. It's no fun for your pup if they can't understand what you want and they can't earn that treat. Set them up for success by ensuring that they can understand what you want.

The moment they do the correct behaviour, you're going to "mark" it. This can be done verbally with a "yes!" or a "good!" or you can use a clicker instead. And then treat them! If you and your dog really love working on tricks together, you can even work up to earning your Trick Dog Certifications (you can check that out here).

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Another game Ruby loves to play is Find It, which is basically Hide'n'Seek but with treats. Your pup will need to know the Stay command for this one while you hide the treat. Or I suppose if the room has a door you could close it and leave them outside the room until you're ready to let them in. Our version goes like this: I bring Ruby to the mat by our front door and ask her to sit and wait. I go into the living room (which is out of her eyesight) and hide one piece of hotdog somewhere. Then I shout "Find it!" and she comes charging in and has to search for the treat. As soon as she's found it, I say "good!" and then bring her back to the mat to wait while I hide another. This game helps her practice her nosework and learn to find things by scent and not just look for the treat with her eyes. You could build on this after a while by requiring her to come back to you and sit after she finds the treat, or maybe even go all the way back to the mat! The more you rehearse what you want them to do, the more they'll catch on and probably try to do it on their own before you ask.

Ruby also has a wooden toy that she enjoys, but she's too smart for it already. It's a flat rectangle with 8 sliding covers that conceal hollow compartments beneath. So I can hide treats in some of those compartments and then she has to use her nose or paws to slide the compartments open and find the treats inside. The compartments do have a peg that sticks up to move the cover easier. But when you first introduce this game, the dog doesn't even know that there are compartments, or how to access them, or which direction the covers might move. It looks easy to humans, but it's fun to watch them try out different strategies until they discover the secret!

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You can make your own variations of that type of game - you can put treats inside an empty 2L bottle and have your pup roll it around the house until they figure out how to get the treats out. I've seen some people take 3 or 4 of those bottles and cut a hole on either side so that they can slide a wooden dowel through all of them (almost like you stabbed all 4 with one sword!)... then they attach that piece of wood to something more sturdy that holds it in place. Now the bottles can swivel on that dowel and the dog needs to get them upside down in order for the treats to fall out! You can see a picture here. There's also a "snuffle mat" that I've seen people make, where it's a little rug with ruffles all over it, and you can drop treats into it so they're hidden and they have to be sniffed out and retrieved!

I would recommend joining the Facebook group "Brain Games for Dogs" for more great ideas from other pup parents!

What games does your dog love to play? And what treats or toys get them most excited to work with you? These kinds of games are a great way to bond with your dog while also exercising that awesome brain of theirs!

Why I Volunteer with Rescues

Something I started doing when I first launched Wet Nose Images was reach out to local rescue organizations. I offered to volunteer my time and skill to photograph the dogs who were waiting patiently for new homes. Often these dogs are photographed with cell phones, and lots of dogs aren't good at patiently sitting still for a photo. These dogs have often just experienced something scary or traumatic and are not feeling their best at the time. So the pictures on their adoptable profiles were dark and blurry or had sad-looking dogs. I had a hard time really seeing who the dogs were and getting a sense of their true personalities.

But I knew that with the right photo, potential adopters would be able to see the sparkle in their eye. They would be able to make that instant connection (the one you feel right in your heart!) and want to meet the dog in person. I was just starting my journey as a business but I knew that there was at least one thing I was good at, and I could use it to help some pups find new homes!

The first rescue I contacted was Buddy's Bully Rescue. I connected with Camellia Saunderson (who now owns UP-K9 in the Valley). She introduced me to Tank and I did his photos out at Fisherman's Cove on a beautifully sunny fall evening. She connected me with a few other pups and foster parents over the next year, like Bear, Mistress, May, George, and Chance! I learned so much from photographing these pups. Each one was a new opportunity to work on my skills - both with my camera and with the dogs themselves. Each presented a unique challenge. Bear was full of zoomies (read his adoption story here), May didn't want anyone near her except her foster mum and her doggie foster brother so I stayed back and used my zoom lens to capture them playing, George didn't want to look at me, and Chance is deaf!

Camellia and Tank

Camellia and Tank

Bear

Bear

Mistress

Mistress

May

May

George

George

Chance

Chance

I've also worked with Good Bones Rescue (one of their foster people had also fostered for Buddy's Bully Rescue and recommended me to the Good Bones owners). I photographed Louie for them and nearly took him home myself! He was such a sweetheart. He had been waiting a while and his new mum found him and adopted him shortly after I photographed him! Read his adoption story in this blog: Louie's Story.

Louie

Louie

Later I got connected with Siblings K9 Rescue (Camellia recommended me) and through them I met and photographed Red, and Gizmo. More sweet pups full of zoomies. More challenges to strengthen my skills as a dog photographer and prepare me for all kinds of different pup personalities!

Red

Red

Gizmo

Gizmo

Wet Nose Images is a business, yes, but I make time to volunteer as well. It's important to me and connects me even more with my community. I've made some wonderful friends because of this volunteer work I've done. I've met some amazing people who foster dogs in their homes, and I've met amazing people who have then adopted those dogs. Some who have then become clients of mine as well!

When I get the call that one of the dogs I photographed has been adopted, it fills my heart with so much joy. Sometimes these dogs were waiting months for someone to see the potential in them and take them home. Of course they were well taken care of and loved in their foster homes. But foster homes are meant to be temporary until they find their forever home. I'm so happy that even though I'm not able to foster or adopt any dogs myself, that I can still do something to make a difference in the lives of these dogs. To help make their journey a little better.

There's a sweet story/fable that I love and this volunteer work reminds me of it. There's a little girl walking along the beach with her grandfather. She sees starfish that are washed up on the sand and starts tossing them back into the ocean as she goes along. Her grandfather shakes his head and asks her why she bothers. "There are so many starfish on the beach - you can't make much of a difference at this rate." But she picks another one up, tosses it back, and says,

 

"I made a difference to that one!"

Chance, one year later <3

Chance, one year later <3

Read Chance's adoption story here.

Interview with Call of the Wild Canine Services

Today on the blog I'm interviewing Sarah McManaman from Call of the Wild Canine Services. She's a dog walker and dog trainer who takes pups on fantastic off-leash adventures through the beautiful trails of Nova Scotia. And documents it all with her GoPro! (all the images in this blog are hers)

Q: How did you decide to go into dog walking as a career, and how long have you owned Call of the Wild Canine Services?

I started fostering dogs in 2009, and my life quickly turned into all dogs, all the time, so caring for dogs other than my own was something I was doing regularly. In 2013 I took the plunge and started taking other peoples’ dogs for hikes! It was something that I did for free for quite a while because it’s so hard for me to charge money for things! I know, it sounds so silly, but I was raised to do nice things for other people because that’s the nice thing to do. If you can help you should. So it really took some personal discipline to be able to turn this into a business and understand the value that I bring to dog owners and their dogs lives.

Q: What types of services do you offer your clients? And why do your clients love it so much?

Off leash group hikes are what I specialize in and I love them! In the woods with dogs is really where I feel most comfortable, and even when I’m not working it’s what I do in my spare time. At the end of a day of hiking all day I like to drive out to the beach to try to catch a pretty sunset. As for what my clients love, you would have to ask them! I feel like everyone appreciates my honesty and approachability. I’ve never been much of a business person; I do what I do because I love it and I’m good at it. So my clients can always be sure that they are getting the real me and always hearing about any little changes or concerns I see with their dogs. I’ve always been upfront and honest about whether or not my services are the best option for them. Sometimes dogs may be a little too shy to feel comfortable to go out with a stranger and that is perfectly okay; I never want to force a dog to do something that they don’t feel comfortable with. I also feel like the people who seek me out to walk their dogs also appreciate my experience in dog training. It is definitely a huge asset when working with groups of off leash dogs. Another thing my clients love is the pictures that I take during our hikes. I am by no means a photographer, but I love taking photos and my GoPro is my weapon of choice. You’ll rarely see me without my GoPro in hand. You can only take so many cell phone portrait shots of dogs before it becomes quite redundant. I love that with my GoPro, which offers a wider angle photo, that I can capture the beautiful areas I walk as well as the dogs.

Q: Which areas does Call of the Wild serve and where do you like to explore on walks/hikes?

I service the core Dartmouth and Halifax areas. As for my favorite spots to hike, well .. I’ll never tell! I always joke when people ask me what trails I use, because the reason I love them is that they are low traffic areas and sometimes we can enjoy our whole walk without bumping into any! I will say though, it’s hard to think of a prettier place to hike in than Nova Scotia. My favorite places to go to hike and also get good pictures has to be rugged coastal trails. Especially the coastal trails around the HRM; they are just so visually pleasing for me. Any trails by the ocean are always a big winner. Anywhere I can catch a good sunset and be able to walk quite a ways without running into anyone else.

Q: Tell me about your own pups!

I share my life with a pretty amazing dog named Zephyr. He was a $150 mutt off Kijiji, which I know everyone has their own opinions on, but boy did I ever hit the jackpot! I picked him almost 8 years ago to this very day! He peed in the car on the drive home, but I was instantly in love. I can’t even say enough good things about him. He is fun, silly and so very loving. He loves to work, and he always has an eye on me in case there is an opportunity to do some tricks and earn some snacks. He is always up for any adventure I have in mind, but is also down for spending the day on the couch under some blankets watching movies. He recently got his Trick Dog Champion title, so you could say he is a bit of a trick connoisseur as well. My new year’s resolution this year was to do more with Zephyr. We already do A LOT together, but we’ve wrangled some new hobbies this year as well! In addition to getting his Trick Dog Champion title at the beginning of 2016, he participated in his first class ever, and started trialling for the first time as well. He tried out his paw at dock diving at AquaTerra Kennels, did a couple of Disc Dog trials, and we are currently training to give Rally Obedience a try! So, long story short, he is an awesome dog. 8 years old and only getting better with age!

Q: Where can the pups of Halifax find and follow you online? Which social media platforms are your favourites?

Instagram is definitely my favorite social platform!! I think I’ve only had my IG account for 2-3 years, but I’m almost at my 6,000th post. There are just so many cool people on there, and by people I mean dogs. I’ve gotten to meet some cool new dog walkers, dog trainers, and just dog enthusiasts in general! There is a great community of GoPro users as well, which is another big interest of mine. @timthetoothninja is a great example of someone else who loves dogs and is using his GoPros to help document the fun they have together. I really love the content he creates, and he has definitely helped me out in learning the ropes when it comes to GoPros. You guys should check him out! If you wanted to find Call of the Wild on the internet, you could choose any of these routes:

Website: www.callofthewildcanines.ca

Facebook: www.facebook.com/callofthewildcanines

Instagram: www.instagram.com/callofthewildcanineservices

Tumblr: http://callofthewildcanines.tumblr.com/

You can also find me posting pictures and training tips on the Sublime Canine Services page at:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/sublimecanineservices

Website: www.sublimecanine.ca

Q: What is your favourite local dog-related company?

Sublime Canine Services. I am biased though, because I am one of the trainers for this lovely dog training company (you can find me in puppy class!). I’ve always loved these guys for their approachability. They make training fun and realistic. I remember before I ever got into dog training I had taken one of my foster dogs to a Basic Life Skills class with them, and they had laid out everything so clearly; it was a huge game changer for me! Definitely the reason why I got into dog training. They are kind, supportive, and always accommodating. I can’t say enough good things about them. Beyond puppy training and life skills training classes, everyone on the team is pretty involved in dog sports! If you’ve ever been interested in dog sports and want to ask some questions I’m sure any of our sport trainers would love to talk your ear off about them!

Q: Thank you so much for taking some time out of your day to talk about Call of the Wild, Sarah! Is there anything else you'd like to add or talk about?

I think if I could encourage anyone to do anything, it would be to have as much fun as possible with their dogs. Perhaps get into trick training. Tricks can be cute and entertaining when you have company over, but they always can translate into real world skills. Even more than just being tricks, it’s an opportunity to bond and connect with your dog. You can really find out a lot from the learning process. For example, my sweet boy can be quite sensitive, and get frustrated if he doesn’t understand something. So I’ve become a “master splitter”: I learned to break behaviours down to smaller steps so that I could gradually build up the behaviour or trick to when I wanted it to be. Being able to see those small rewardable moments in your trick training transfers over into real life as well. We expect our dogs to put up with a whole lot in life, and often just take it for granted. I’ve always felt a lot happier when I’ve been acknowledging the small successes with my dogs, instead of just getting after them for the stuff I don’t like. So I guess what I’m saying is play with your dogs! Whether its tricks, or dog sports, long walks or just chucking a ball for them. Do what makes you both happy as much as you can! Our time spent with them in this world is so unfairly short, never pass up an opportunity to bring out the joy in your relationship and not take things to seriously.